With the world gradually devolving into an ever greater state of chaos as world powers circle each other hissing, it’s always nice to be reminded of Mankind’s potential for greatness; perhaps I’ll recall this moment as I raise a glass of irradiated water in a toast, from within the confines of my bunker as a gigantic mutant scorpion chips away at its exterior. Who am I kidding? I wish I had a bunker.
NASA has stated that it hopes to have manned missions to Mars by the 2030s.
In a 36-page report released last week, entitled NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration, the agency has outlined its plans to take Man where no Man has gone before…
“NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.
The goal will be achieved in three simple steps:
Step 1: Earth Dependent- continue to research the impact of living in space over extended periods of time and improve on and continue to develop the most powerful rocket it has- the Space Launch System.
Step 2: Proving Ground- deploy crews in relatively deep space environments near the moon.
Step3: Earth Independent- have missions conducted near one of the Martian moons or in low-Mars orbit before making the final long-awaited Mars landing.
“NASA’s strategy connects near-term activities and capability development to the journey to Mars and a future with a sustainable human presence in deep space,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters.
“This strategy charts a course toward horizon goals, while delivering near-term benefits, and defining a resilient architecture that can accommodate budgetary changes, political priorities, new scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and evolving partnerships.”
Reaching the final destination isn’t expected to be the end of the astronauts’ worries, however;“It has minimal oxygen, a temperate of 200 degrees below at the poles, and low gravity that can burst internal organs within minutes,” and dust, as described by The New York Times. Besides Mars’s inately hostile conditions, astronauts must somehow be able to receive support from Earth in missions that could span nearly 3 years at a time.
And when the novelty of planting a flag on the surface of the scorched/freezing planet wears off, somehow NASA needs to figure out how to get these courageous men and women off the planet and home again- preferably in one piece.
“Through our robotic emissaries, we have already been on and around Mars for 40 years, taking nearly every opportunity to send orbiters, landers and rovers with increasingly complex experiments and sensing systems. These orbiters and rovers have returned vita data about the Martin environment,” said NASA.
“The revolutionary Curiosity sky crane placed nearly one metric ton – about the size of a small car – safely on the surface of Mars, but we need to be able to land at least 10 times that weight with humans – and then be able to get them off the surface.”
Apparently 3D printing will play a vital role in the endevor, probably allowing astronauts to recreate that one swirly screw that nobody thought of keeping a spare of. In all seriousness though, 3D printing would probably also allow astronauts to travel light and print exactly what they need, when they realize that they need it. It would be sad to abandon the journey two years in just because somebody forgot to bring the swirly screw thingie, after all.
Solar electric propulsion will also enable the space ship to carry less fuel, and to fly while minimizing fuel consumption.
“The journey to Mars is an historic pioneering endeavor – a journey made possible by a sustained effort of science and exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit with successively more capable technologies and partnerships,” NASA said in its statement.
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